Going to A&E in a mental health crisis – my experience

Trigger warning: Before you read, be aware that there are detailed descriptions of mental illness and mentions of self harm in this, so if you feel you’ll be negatively affected, don’t read.

I’ve had to go to the emergency department multiple times, in periods of acute illness. For the first few times, it was because of suicide attempts, but recently I’ve had to go because I couldn’t keep myself safe and neither could my parents.

The most recent time was about a month ago. I had self harmed and was experiencing what I can only describe as a lot of fucking pain. Every thought in my head hurt, and being alive hurt even more. I literally couldn’t take a second without hitting myself, scratching myself or any other form of self harm you can think of. I wasn’t crying – I couldn’t. I became nothing and everything all at once. I wouldn’t let anyone touch me and I could barely speak. I was horribly agitated and my mind was clouded by delusions and paranoia. That evening, I went to A&E with my mum.

Generally, I get seen by one of the triage nurses quite fast, which by A&E waiting time standards, is an hour or less. It’s usually about half an hour but, of course, it depends on how busy the department is at the time. Waiting isn’t the hard part. When in the triage room, either me or my mum had to explain everything, which is hard to hear at the best of times. This increased my agitation and I was given a bed/ room in the department quite quickly. Only twice have I been admitted to a general ward in the hospital, and last month was one of those times. Before this, though, I am usually seen by a doctor and the on-site adult psych team. Of course, because I’m under 18, they can’t make any real decisions and I have to stay overnight until the CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) liaison nurse comes to assess me. This is the worst, because you’re in an unfamiliar environment, with babies crying more often than not. It’s rare to get a good night’s sleep and relatively easy to harm yourself.

In the morning, the nurse will come to assess your state. Last month, I was still very unwell and she mentioned the possibility of hospital, although she was very hesitant and made it clear that beds are very hard to be found, so it was unlikely for me to be admitted. I don’t really know if hospitalisation would have helped, and luckily I never have been. I stayed for the night again, and she came to see me the next day. By then, I’d calmed down slightly, which was reassuring.

I went home soon afterwards, and had a follow up appointment from my psychiatrist within a week. She wasn’t much help – she took me off my medication and I wasn’t receiving any counselling (and still am not). I find my therapist too blunt and not very helpful at all, and she increases my agitation and anger problems, so I stopped going to see her. Therefore, I don’t completely blame CAMHS for the lack of therapy, but I am bitter about practically being left to fend for myself in a period of intense illness. Since then, my self harm and suicidal thoughts/behaviours have just worsened and I am at a loss for places to look for help.

I guess I’m just trying to function until August/September, when my DBT will start. However, that’s a long way away and I’m uncertain about how the next few months are going to work.

Sorry for the overall depressing post – I’ll update soon with a post about some songs I listen to when in different moods, and my overall relationship with music.

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